About the Court of Session

Parliament House, Edinburgh

The Court of Session, Scotland's supreme civil court, sits in Parliament House in Edinburgh as a court of first instance and a court of appeal.

The court is headed by the Lord President the second in rank being the Lord Justice Clerk.

Outer and Inner House

The court is divided into the Outer House and the Inner House. The Outer House consists of 22 Lords Ordinary sitting alone or, in certain cases, with a civil jury. They hear cases at first instance on a wide range of civil matters, including cases based on delict (tort) and contract, commercial cases and judicial review. The judges cover a wide spectrum of work, but designated judges deal with intellectual property disputes. Special arrangements are made to deal with commercial cases. An appeal lies to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

Inner House

The Inner House is in essence the appeal court, though it has a small range of first instance business. It is divided into the First and the Second Divisions, of equal authority, and presided over by the Lord President and the Lord Justice Clerk respectively. Each division is made up of six Judges, but the quorum is three. Due to pressure of business an Extra Division of three judges sits frequently nowadays. The Divisions hear cases on appeal from the Outer House, the Sheriff Court and certain tribunals and other bodies. On occasion, if a case is particularly important or difficult, or if it is necessary to overrule a previous binding authority, a larger court of five or more Judges may be convened.

Cases can be presented by

  • An advocate - a member of the Faculty of Advocates whose status and function correspond to that of a barrister in England
  • A solicitor-advocate - a. member of the Law Society of Scotland. Experienced solicitors who obtain an extension of their rights of audience by undergoing additional training in evidence and in the procedure of the Court of Session.
  • A practitioner from another member state of the European Union where the circumstances are prescribed by the European Communities (Services of Lawyers) Order 1978.
  • An individual who is a party to a case , but a firm or a company must always be represented by counsel or by a solicitor-advocate.

The origins of the court can be traced to the early sixteenth century.